Tired of Being Tired: Accessibility and Accommodation in Venice12.7.2017 | art.
Installation view of 'Risers', 2017
Having spent several weeks in the pavilion, I have gotten a pretty good feel for the types of visitors that enter through our doors: The experienced art critic, the hyperactive child, the gelato-eating tourist (with melted gelato trickling down their hand, threatening to drip onto the pavilion floor) who is then unfortunately turned away from the exhibit…. but hey, who can resist the sweet satisfaction of a cold gelato on a hot summer day?
Visitors napping on 'Risers'
But by far the most peculiar type of visitor is our mid-afternoon crowd, or what I’d like to call, the Tired of Being Tired crowd. Every day around three o’clock, our pavilion is flooded with exhausted visitors who simply can’t forgo the chance to rest. Some take refuge from the blazing sun inside the slightly cooler Palazzo Gundane room (with its deliberately tacky sofas), while others lie sleeping on the Risers stage outside. Seating can be hard to come by on the streets of Venice – sure, there are occasional benches, but having been exposed to hours of the scorching sun, the benches feel like more a hot stove than a comfy seat. The seating in our pavilion can seem like a sanctuary from the humid streets of Venice in comparison.
Sofas inside 'Palazzo Gundane (homage to the myth-make who fell to earth)'
It’s interesting to think how seating has been incorporated into the installation’s design. Not only can the seats help combat against fatigue, they also encourage visitors to linger within our pavilion and further explore the artwork. Oftentimes, we see viewers conversing with friends about the exhibit or about the Biennale itself. Something as simple as a seat can give visitors an opportunity to absorb and appreciate everything the artwork has to offer.
Another thing that has caught my attention, though this doesn’t occur as frequently as our sleeping visitors, is how wheelchair users interact with the Risers stage. This piece has been quite eye-catching, and is particularly popular with energetic kids (who see the piece as a playground) and selfie-taking adults (gotta do it for the Instagram!). Although there are several sets of stairs to the stage, you can also reach the stage by going up the ramps. This was particularly helpful when we had a wheelchair user visit the pavilion, and she was able to cruise through the Risers just as other rambunctious children had. Though this piece wasn’t necessarily designed with wheelchair accessibility in mind, it’s certainly made me consider more about how to make art more accessible for different types of viewers.